Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wonderstruck


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Wonderstruck is an effervescent masterpiece of ethereal beauty that will touch every single part of you like you've never imagined.

Based on the 2011 book by Brian Selznick, & set in both 1927 & 1977, the film follows two people: Rose Kincaid (played by Millicent Simmonds) & Ben Wilson (played by Oakes Fegley).

In 1927 Hoboken, New Jersey, Rose Kincaid is a deaf girl being kept at home by her father, being taught by her tutor to lip read & mouth words. Disillusioned with her life, she flees to New York City to find her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew (played by Julianne Moore). Once she gets there, she'll realize more than she could've imagined.

In 1977 Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben Wilson is a boy reeling from the death in a car accident of his librarian mother, Elaine Wilson (played by Michelle Williams). One night, while rummaging through some stuff, Ben finds a bookmark with a number to a bookstore in New York, with a note written to Elaine on the back of it. When he calls that number, lightning strikes the house, sending electricity to the phone cord, electrocuting Ben, rendering him deaf in both ears. At the hospital, he sneaks out & sets out for New York to find his father.

Eventually, these 2 timelines will join together piece by piece.

The cast is spectacular. Simmonds & Fegley give some of the best child performances in a long time. Williams is great in her short runtime. And Moore is amazing as always.

Todd Haynes's direction is excellent. Haynes forms a calm, uncynical atmosphere & it is done so well. Also, I commend Haynes for his use of subtitles throughout the entire film for the deaf community.

Brian Selznick's screenplay is amazing. Selznick has adapted his novel so perfectly, & has shown that he can write screenplays as well as he can write books.

Edward Lachman's cinematography is nothing short of stunning. From the black-&-white world of 1927, to the grainy, gritty world of 1977, every shot is perfect.

Affonso Gonçalves's editing is excellent. It's methodically slow, & both of the timelines flow into one another almost seamlessly.

Sandy Powell's costume design is amazing. The costumes, especially in 1927, are definitely accurate for the times.

Mark Friedberg's production design is absolutely stunning. The sets are so immersive, especially the period-accurate sets in 1927.

The sound design is incredible. The silent dialogue of 1927 & the muffled sounds of Ben's hearing in 1977 are just so incredibly well-done.

And Carter Burwell's score is absolutely beautiful. His quiet & meditative piano drives the film, & enhances the mood of the film.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's awe-inspiring & absolutely beautiful.

Wonderstruck was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, November 10, 2017. It is in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI; the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI; & the Goodrich Quality 16 in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 116 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements & smoking.

Thor: Ragnarok


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

We must all admit this: the Thor films have been the weakest out of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (along with The Incredible Hulk).

So it's easy to see that I did meet Thor: Ragnarok with some trepidation at first. But I eventually found out how great of a director the film's director, Taika Waititi, is. Then the trailer came out, & I was sold.

And this film could not have exceeded my already high expectations more than it did. It's fun, hilarious, & becomes the best superhero film of the year so far. The film follows Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth), who has returned to Asgard after searching for the Infinity Stones. When he arrives, he forces his brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) to help him find their father, Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins). With the help of Dr. Stephen Strange, AKA Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), Thor & Loki find Odin in Norway. Odin tells them that he is about to die, & his death will allow their sister, Hela (played by Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, to be freed & implement Ragnarok, meaning the deaths of many people, including Thor & Loki, & the vast expansion of Asgard's empire over the Nine Realms.

Odin dies, & Hela appears in front ot Thor & Loki. They try to fight back, but Hela destroys Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, & sends them into space. Hela then arrives in Asgard, resurrecting her comrades, & making warrior Skurge (played by Karl Urban) her executioner. Thankfully, Heimdall (played by Idris Elba) hides the Asgardian citizens & steals the sword controlling the Bifröst Bridge.

Thor lands on Sakaar, a garbage planet. He is then taken in by Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), a bounty hunter. She takes him to the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum), the cunning & maniacal ruler of Sakaar, who has already become friends with Loki. The Grandmaster sends Thor into a gladiator contest, where the loser is killed. While waiting for the battle, Thor meets Korg (played by Taika Waititi), an animal made of rocks. When the battle comes, Thor is facing off against... Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo). After the battle, Thor, Hulk & Loki, along with Valkyrie & Korg, team up to defeat Hela & bring peace to the Nine Realms.

The cast is magnificent. Hemsworth, Hiddleston & Ruffalo are excellent. Blanchett is delightfully villainous. Thompson gives an excellent breakout performance. And Jeff Goldblum is as amazing as ever.

Taika Waititi's direction is excellent. Waititi takes a different atmospheric approach from the previous Thor films, & adds his trademark New Zealand humor to the film, & it works so perfectly.

The screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost is brilliant. The humor lands at every turn, & the characters are so quirky.

Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography is stunning. It's so colorful & awe-inspiring & it shows in every shot.

Joel Negron & Zene Baker's editing is excellent. It's excellently paced, & it knows where it's going throughout the film.

Dan Hennah & Ra Vincent's production design is awe-inspiring. The colorful sets are so incredibly immersive.

The sound design is incredible. It's loud & fun & immerses you eardrums.

Mark Mothersbaugh's score is excellent. The music is incredibly bombastic, & it's one of the best scores from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And the visual effects are a true wonder. Just like 2016's Doctor Strange & 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the effects almost become a character themselves.

This is one of the best superhero films in a while, & definitely the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. It's fun & colorful & hilarious at every turn.

Thor: Ragnarok was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, November 3, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence & action, & brief suggestive material.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Suburbicon


½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

How does a film that looks so amazing & brilliantly funny in the trailer actually become an unfocused & unfunny mess?

That's the question I asked myself at the end of Suburbicon, the year's most disappointing film. Set in 1959, the film follows Gardner Lodge (played by Matt Damon), a mild-mannered husband to Rose (played by Julianne Moore) & father to Nicky (played by Noah Jupe). They live in Suburbicon, a subdivision based off of the Levittown subdivision.

One night, while Rose's sister Margaret (also played by Julianne Moore) is at the house, two robbers break into the house, tie up the family, & knock them out with chloroform. When they wake up, they realize Rose died after being given a large dose of chloroform.

In order to help, Margaret moves in with Gardner & Nicky to help them out. While this occurs, an African-American family, the Meyers family, moves into Suburbicon (based on the real-life Meyers family who moved into Levittown in the 1950s), causing racial tension to build. The Lodge family is completely oblivious to this. But when insurance agent Bud Cooper (played by Oscar Isaac) becomes involved, everyone is sent into a twisted world they'll never get out of.

The performances are mediocre. Damon & Moore aren't that great, but they did the best they could with the script. However, Oscar Isaac, in his short screentime, is absolutely mesmerizing.

George Clooney's direction is awful. He can't juggle the two plotlines at all, proving that he isn't as good at directing as he is at acting.

The screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney & Grant Heslov is an absolute dumpster fire. Originally written by the Coen brothers in 1986 before being shelved, Clooney & Heslov re-wrote it, adding the racial tension subplot. And this is Suburbicon's fatal flaw: a subplot that doesn't factor into the plot at all, & almost doesn't even exist in the film. Even without the racial tension subplot, the script is a mess, as the darkly funny moments aren't funny at all. As far as the Coen brothers go, this is like most of the films they wrote but didn't direct (except for Bridge of Spies): awful.

And the editing by Stephen Mirrione is horrible. His attempts to weave together the two plotlines fail miserably, as the 105-minute runtime isn't enough time to give due diligence to them.

This is one of the worst films of the year. It's an absolute mess, & because of the people that were involved in the film, I was extremely disappointed, as I expected a lot more from them.

Suburbicon was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, October 28, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & is rated R for violence, language & some sexuality.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Since his 2009 breakout film Dogtooth, the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has slowly worked his way to the top of absurdist cinema with his truly unique blend of dark comedy & psychological horror. His most recent film, 2016's The Lobster, was one of my favorite films of 2016, & was so deeply idiosyncratic you can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it.

But now, he has taken away most of the biting dark comedy & added more of the disturbing psychological horror with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, an equally hilarious & terrifying film. The film follows Steven Murphy (played by Colin Farrell), a renowned surgeon. He & his wife, Anna (played by Nicole Kidman), have 2 children: 14-year old Kim (played by Raffey Cassidy) & 12-year-old Bob (played by Sunny Suljic).

Recently, Steven has become a mentor to Martin (played by Barry Keoghan), the son of a former patient of Steven's. As Martin becomes closer to Steven, he also becomes closer to Kim. Also, Martin becomes more unhinged, basically coercing Steven into meeting his mother (played by Alicia Silverstone), who is obviously sexually attracted to Steven.

One day, before school, Bob has a bad experience & is sent to the hospital. Martin meets Steven at the hospital, & tells him that for something Steven did in the past, he must pay back & make an ultimate sacrifice. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Steven has more secrets, including one that his anesthesiologist, Matthew (played by Bill Camp) has in his hands.

The cast is excellent. Farrell & Kidman are dynamite. Silverstone gives her greatest performance ever. But Barry Keoghan is the true star. He makes you feel equally frightened & creeped out.

Yorgos Lanthimos's direction is amazing. He creates such a tense & disturbing atmopshere that you can't tear yourself away from the screen.

The screenplay by Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou is brilliant. The dark comedy Lanthimos is known for, although there is less of it here, always manages to stand out. And the characters are so idiosyncratic that they're almost impossible to describe.

The cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis is astounding. Every shot feels so cold & distant, reminding us of the cinematography from the films of Stanley Kubrick, especially The Shining.

And the sound design is absolutely stunning. It's so jarring that it will shake you to your very core.

This is one of the best films of the year. It holds you tight & doesn't let go for its entire runtime as it terrifies you, disturbs you, & possibly makes you laugh.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, October 27, 2017. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; & the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing violent & sexual content, some graphic nudity & language.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Florida Project


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I've always gravitated towards films that show realistic portrayals of people. It's probably because these stories aren't told that often. They're buried under the pile of blockbusters that come out every weekend. However, I've always managed to find the diamond in the rough with these films.

The Florida Project is no exception. The film follows Moonee (played by Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a 6-year-old living with her mother, Halley (played by Bria Vinaite) at The Magic Castle, an extended stay motel in Kissimmee, Florida, not too far from Disney World. To Moonee, the world is a magic kingdom. She plans to spend the summer playing with her friends, Scooty (played by Christopher Rivera) & Dicky (played by Aiden Malik), including throwing water balloons at tourists, spitting off the balcony, & sneaking around the motel.

Along the way, Moonee meets a new friend, Jancey (played by Valeria Cotto), who lives at the neighboring extended-stay motel, Futureland. Together, the 4 try to make the best of their summer.

But not everything is well. Halley is physically unfit to be a mother. She does drugs, is neglectful towards Moonee, & has gone to some low depths to make some money. This unhappy reality is inching ever so closer to Moonee, but at the end of the day, Halley truly cares for Moonee, as all the things she does is for her. And always in the background is Bobby (played by Willem Dafoe), the manager of The Magic Castle, who besides dealing with maintenance issues & working with his son, Jack (played by Caleb Landry Jones), would do literally anything to protect the kids that live there.

The cast is spectacular. Brooklynn Kimberly Prince & Bria Vinaite are some of the greatest discoveries in cinema in a long time. Prince is an absolute star in the making. Vinaite, who was discovered on Instagram, is absolutely stellar. The rest of the child cast, namely Cotto, is excellent as well. But the best performance comes from Willem Dafoe. Dafoe, one of the most underrated actors of our time, is nothing short of astounding here. His performance, like many others in the film, is so heartwarming & heartbreaking all at once.

Sean Baker's direction is amazing. He mixes an atmosphere of childlike wonder with an atmosphere of adult despair so perfectly.

The screenplay by Baker & Chris Bergoch is perfect. The plot, characters, & script feel so amazingly raw & real that it hurts.

And Alexis Zabe's cinematography is stellar. Shot on 35mm, Zabe captures the children's vision so perfectly, with every shot looking like a bright & colorful painting. And the last sequence of the film, shot on an iPhone (like Baker's previous film, 2015's Tangerine) is nothing short of perfect.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's an amazing portrayal of childhood. It may not be a great life for everyone, but it's raw & real. And shouldn't we see more realistic depictions of life like this? I sure think we should.

The Florida Project was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, October 20, 2017. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI; & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 111 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references & some drug material.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Blade Runner 2049


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've seen C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Those immortal words uttered by Rutger Hauer in the 1982 sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner have stuck with pop culture through 35 years & 7 different cuts of the film (2007's The Final Cut being the definitive version). Those words have made us wonder what it truly means to be human.

And now, 35 years later, the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, has arrived. This was one of my most highly anticipated films of the year, because of the expectations set by the first film, aling with the people involved in the film.

And it destroyed those expectations, & ends up as the best film of the year so far. Set in 2049 Los Angeles, the film focuses on Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling), an officer sent to retire (kill) replicants. The name for his occupation is still "blade runner." K lives with his female companion, Joi (played by Ana de Armas).

After an encounter with Nexus-8 replicant Sapper Morton (played by Dave Bautista), K returns to the police headquarters & meets with Lt. Joshi (played by Robin Wright) over a box found at Sapper's farm. Lt. Joshi tells K to destroy the box, fearful that if the contents of the box are revealed, a war will occur.

K eventually encounters ruthless Wallace Corporation CEO Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) & his assistant, Luv (played by Sylvia Hoeks), who find out about the contents of the box. Eventually, K is led on a journey to protect the remains of the box, encountering replicant designer Dr. Ana Stelline (played by Carla Juri), orphanage leader Mr. Cotton (played by Lennie James), & prostitute Mariette (played by Mackenzie Davis), but his journey will lead him to an even more important person, former blade runner Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford).

The cast is amazing. Gosling gives one of his best performances. Ford gives his best performance yet. Leto does an excellent job. But the best performances come from Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas, & Mackenzie Davis. They manage to steal every single scene they're in.

Denis Villeneuve's direction is spectacular. Villeneuve, who in my opinion is the greatest director in film at the moment, has taken on a world that was already great to begin with & made it better, permeating the film with such a tense atmopshere.

The screenplay by Hampton Fancher & Michael Green is excellent. The plot is so intricately created, like a puzzle where even 1 missing piece will not show any part of the big picture.

No words can describe Roger Deakins's cinematography. Every shot is like a majestic mural just waiting for people to willingly gaze at it for ages. This is some of the best cinematography in film history.

Joe Walker's editing is excellent. It's definitely slow, but that's a great thing about this film. It's unconventionally paced. It makes you wait for the revelations of the plot.

Renée April's costume design is amazing. The futuristic costumes are beautiful to look at & are definitely immersive.

Dennis Gassner's production design is nothing short of breathtaking. The futuristic buildings with the big neon lights are just a part of what makes the set so immersive.

The makeup & hairstyling is amazing. Many of the amazing characters are enhanced even more by the futuristic makeup & hairstyling.

The sound design is absolutely impeccable. It ranges from loud & bombastic to quiet & calm, & it's such a pleasant thing to hear.

The score by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch is absolutely fantastic. This is arguably their best score yet. The music provokes so many emotions through its excellent use of synthesizers.

And the visual effects are nothing short of spectacular. This is some of the best CGI in film history, & the effects become a character themselves because of their immersive scale.

This is not only the best film of the year so far, but it's the best sci-fi film I've ever seen, & the best sequel I've ever seen, managing to improve on the original, which is a masterpiece in its own right. This was definitely a theatrical experience I don't witness that much, & I'm glad I did.

Blade Runner 2049 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, October 6, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 164 minutes, & it is rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity & language.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Battle of the Sexes


★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

In the past month, many exemplary women have come out & bravely announced that they had been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped by their male co-workers & men in positions of power. The main story has focused around Harvey Weinstein, the founder & former president of Miramax & The Weinstein Company. Since then, more women have come out against their abusers, both in & out of the film industry. These women have shown that they will no longer be silenced. They will no longer be forced to suffer alone through their trauma of past abuse. They have shown through many ways that they will end this despicable era of harassment towards women at all costs, becoming excellent feminist role models to women everywhere.

Because of this, Battle of the Sexes couldn't have been more timely. Set in 1973 & based on the true story, the film follows Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone), the famous tennis player/feminist. Feeling disillusioned by the sexist policies of the Lawn Tennis Association set by tour promoter Jack Kramer (played by Bill Pullman), King, along with eight other tennis players, including Rosie Casals (played by Natalie Morales) & Jane Bartkowicz (played by Martha MacIsaac) & the founder of World Tennis magazine, Gladys Heldman (played by Sarah Silverman), form a women's professional tennis tour. King's friend, fashion designer Ted Tinling (played by Alan Cumming), also joins in to help with the organization. Although it is unsanctioned by Kramer, the struggling tour gets more attention when the cigarette company Virginia Slims becomes a sponsor of the tournament, along with the arrival of Australian tennis star Margaret Court (played by Jessica McNamee).

Meanwhile, the famous tennis star/hustler/unapologetical chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) is going through some personal troubles. His wife, Priscilla (played by Elisabeth Shue) is about to leave him due to his extreme gambling addiction, & at the age of 55, is way past his prime. Having just been thrown out of his house, Riggs comes up with a bet that he can beat any female tennis player, even at the age of 55, boasting that female tennis is not as strong as male tennis.

King declines the offer; however, Court takes him on, & is soundly defeated. At that moment, King decides to take him on, but wanting a major say in the arrangements. King trains a lot more than Riggs, who barely trains, believing that he will destroy King like he destroyed Court. But King has a lot of perseverance & strength to her, so the match will not be as easy as Riggs thinks it will.

Off the court, King is also going through personal issues as well. Although she is married to Larry King (played by Austin Stowell), King develops a relationship with her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (played by Andrea Riseborough). With this & her devotion to feminist causes, the match becomes more than that for her.

The cast is superb. Emma Stone gives one of the 3 best performances of her career. Steve Carell also gives one of the 3 best performances of his career, & is making a name for himself as a dramatic actor as well as a comedic actor, showing a pitch-perfect balance between comedy & drama in his performance here. Sarah Silverman also shows her noted feistiness in her short screentime, & it is excellent.

The direction by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris is great. Although their direction isn't as great as their direction for their masterpiece, 2006's Little Miss Sunshine (but then again, what will? That film is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time), it hits a lot more of the notes than it misses.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy is amazing. It walks on that fine line between comedy & drama excellently.

And Linus Sandgren's cinematography is stunning. Shot on 16mm film, Sandgren's camerawork is almost near perfect, & that image on the sadly-going-out-of-style 16mm film is clear & crisp. It's definitely some of the best cinematography this year.

This is a truly great dramedy. While some parts are a little unfocused, it's overall an excellent account of a truly groundbreaking moment in sports history. And it's also a great film for women, showcasing Billie Jean King for what she was: an amazing tennis player who was an amazing role model for women everywhere.

Battle of the Sexes was seen by me on Friday, September 29, 2017 at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington, MI; & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Walled Lake, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some sexual content & partial nudity.